On Saturday, I attended the diaconal ordination of Kevin Gadd from Wallsend Shortland Parish. It was a wonderful celebration for a man who has been on the journey for a long time, having undergone some significant life interruptions! Many aspects of the ceremony touched me, but the following words have stayed with me, and I believe relate to the theme of my message this week. As Bishop Bill presented the Book of the Gospels to Kevin, he said the following words:
Believe what you read,
teach what you believe,
and practice what you teach.
These words came back to me again on Sunday, when I attended the celebration and presentation of the 2018 Christian Formation Course. About 25 people participated in the course and it was obvious to me that they had valued the content of the course, the teachers, their learning and the camaraderie of all the participants, who had enjoyed the experience with other disciples.
Then at Sunday Mass, the Gospel has Thomas wanting to see, touch and feel what the other apostles had experienced of Jesus, after his death. It is from this resurrection encounter with Jesus that Thomas travelled as far afield as India to preach the Good News. He made real Jesus’ request:
As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.
It was obvious to me that those who participated in the Christian Formation Course are being sent. Deacon Kevin Gadd is being sent. We are all being sent. We are being sent to fulfil the words spoken by Jesus, to bring peace to our world.
What was not lost on me was the fact that the church, which Thomas helped to establish in India, and present day Sri Lanka, was closed over the weekend, due to fear of harm to those who might attend worship. I am still reeling from the multiple attacks, which took place in churches and in hotels on Easter Sunday. Fr Joseph Figurado, from Sri Lanka, will be celebrating a Memorial Mass for the victims of the attacks at Mayfield West Church on Thursday 2 May at 6.30pm. Please consider coming along to pray for the victims and their families and to support Fr Joseph and the local Sri Lankan community.
The following words of blessing were prayed over the participants of the Christian Formation Course, and I believe this blessing applies to each of us as we ponder the deeper meaning for our faith and our commitment to this faith.
God who journeys with us
today we recognise your loving presence
at work in the lives of these your disciples.
Bless them with disciples’ faith in your Son, Jesus, … that their hunger and thirst for you will unsettle and disturb them, always calling them forward to your kingdom.
Bless them with disciples’ eyes … that they will be awake to the many ways you are present in our world.
Bless them with disciples’ ears … that they will recognise your voice in the midst of life.
Bless them with disciples’ hearts … that they will stand beside all those they meet, sharing their joys and hopes, their grief and anguish.
Bless them with disciples’ voices … that they will speak your truth where it is needed.
Bless them with all the graces they need … to live authentically in the tension between the vision and reality of our Church.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
This faith of ours in Jesus Christ, has eyes, ears, hearts, voices and graces. No doubt because of this faith we have a massive responsibility and an accountability to care for all of creation and all created beings. I have been reading significant documents around Australia’s upcoming federal election and our regular media outlets have not promoted these readings.
I invite you to read the following documents, which you will find on the web. The first is a Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Australia for the 2019 Federal Election – Politics in Service of Peace.
The second is from NetAct, a project of Catholic Social Justice, Welfare and Educational Agencies – Voting for Compassion and Courage – A Fair Deal for All.
The third reading is a Uniting Justice project from the Uniting Church of Australia – Our Vision for a Just Australia.
Lastly, a link inviting us to 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting for the Federal Election.
Next week, I will attempt to invite you to contemplate the big issues that these writings invite us to consider. They do not attempt to tell us how to vote but they do invite us to move outside of thinking about the impact on ‘me’ of the election and to consider the common good, because we call ourselves Christians.
The Bishop’s statement finishes with this prayer, which I hope you might like to pray each day as we approach this election.
A PRAYER FOR THE ELECTION
Holy God, at the dawn of time you fashioned
the world and set it on its course.
In the fullness of time, your Son took flesh
and sowed the seeds of a new order,
and day by day your Spirit works
to bring to birth your realm of mercy, justice and peace.
We give you thanks for Australia,
the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
In this Spirit, we pray for our land and all its people
as the nation prepares to elect a new Federal Parliament.
We pray for the women and men
who have offered themselves as candidates for public office.
May those who are elected set their hearts
always on honourable service and the common good.
We pray for the citizens of this much-blessed country,
that they may take up their responsibility
to vote with wisdom and freedom,
and choose what is best for the whole community.
Loving God, to listen to your Son is to be moved
to speak up for the unseen and unheard.
Give us hearts to heed your Word
and mouths to declare your truth.
We pray that throughout this election campaign
Christian communities will be a voice for the voiceless.
We especially remember refugees and asylum-seekers,
Indigenous peoples, survivors of sexual abuse, those who suffer family violence, those in the womb,
the elderly, those suffering mental illness, those suffering addiction, those entrapped in new forms of slavery
and the desperately poor beyond our shores.
We hold before you the whole of our world, both social and natural. We pray for a healthy society in which marriage and family life is respected and supported.
We pray for the earth, our home – the land on which we dwell, the air we breathe, the water we drink – that creation’s cry for healing and care is heard.
Bless all who are elected to serve the nation; may the wisdom and courage of the Holy Spirit guide them to govern for the good of all. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Holding each of you in prayer.